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In Case You Missed It – May 29, 2015 – Mental illness’ impact on the poor, psychol

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In this week’s In Case You Missed It (a roundup of articles related to psychology, health, mental health and social justice collated from multiple news and commentary websites) we examine the disproportionate impact of mental illness on the poor, the appointment of a clinical psychologist as head of the nation’s second largest jail, Ireland’s historic legalization of same-sex marriage and more.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new study showing that mental health problems are far more common among the poor than the rich, dropping from 8.7% prevalence among adults living at less than 100% of the federal poverty level to 1.2% among adults living at 400% or more of the poverty level.

Infographic on inequality and mental health

The study does not address whether mental health problems lead to more economic hardship or the other way around, but most researchers believe the process works in both directions. Studies have shown, for example, that infants and toddlers growing up in low-income communities are more likely to experience the kind of “toxic stress” (neglect, abuse, seeing violence in the home) that can hinder brain development and lead to mental illness in adulthood. Additional studies have suggested, though not conclusively, that adults who become unemployed are more likely to develop depression. At the same time, somebody who had mental health problems might have a tougher time holding onto a job. And without employment, historically, it’s been tough to get health insurance or to have enough money to pay for timely detection and treatment of psychiatric problems. For the people and families that deal with mental illness, the result can be a vicious, downward spiral.

Psychologist to head Chicago jail, nation’s second largest –            

A clinical psychologist will be appointed head of Chicago’s Cook County Jail, the nation’s second-largest jail where a third of the inmates are mentally ill, officials announced on Tuesday. Nneka Jones Tapia will become executive director of the jail on May 26, county officials said. Cook County houses an average of 9,000 inmates daily, of which 25 percent to 35 percent suffer from mental illness, according to a spokesman. That number has grown in recent years as the number of mental health facilities fell, jail officials said. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that since the 1960s, the number of beds in Illinois’ state-run psychiatric hospitals has fallen to fewer than 1,500 from 35,000, which is why there are so many mentally ill people incarcerated. “I think I can bring a wealth of knowledge to the staff in understanding the inmates,” Tapia said in an interview. Most of the mentally ill inmates in the jail are charged with low-level, non-violent offenses, such as trespassing and drug possession, and some get into jail just to receive treatment, Tapia said.

Ireland became the first country Saturday to legalize same-sex marriage by national referendum, a result that highlights the dramatic pace at which this traditionally conservative Catholic nation has changed in recent times. Just 22 years after decriminalizing homosexuality, 62.1% of voters approved the measure changing the nation’s constitution to allow gay marriage, according to official results by Ireland’s referendum commission. National turnout in Friday’s poll was 60.5% of 3.2 million eligible voters.

“With today’s vote we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said, welcoming the outcome Saturday. Campaigners on both sides said the high turnout, buoyed by strong engagement from younger members of the electorate as well as the many Irish expatriates who returned home to cast their votes, contributed to the “Yes” result.

Ever since anti-retrovirals became the standard therapy for HIV in the late 1980s, physicians have agonized over the timing of when to give the drugs. While the treatment has proven effective at decreasing patients’ viral load, it often comes with severe, even toxic side effects — a worry that led global public health officials to recommend only giving the drug when a patient’s white blood cell levels drop to a certain level. Now it looks like the guidelines may have been too conservative. The results of a National Institutes of Health study revealed on Wednesday show that the treatment appears most effective when you start it at the time of diagnosis. Researchers were surprised to find that the risk of developing serious illness or death was reduced by more than half — 53 percent – among study participants who received treatment early. The results were so striking that the researchers felt ethically obligated to offer the antiretroviral drugs to all the patients in the trial, effectively ending their scientific inquiry. Following the announcement of the results, the United Nations AIDS agency called for everyone with HIV to get immediate access to antiretroviral therapy.

“The average Social Security benefit for women is $3,878 less than that of men, because about 30 percent of women take time out of the workforce to care for children and other family members compared to 15 percent of men,” said Webster Phillips, senior policy analyst of the Washington-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “Women are also more likely to work part time than are men to accommodate caregiving.” Older women tend to be poorer than men. In 2010, about 11 percent of women over 65 were below the poverty level compared to about 7 percent of older men, the Census Bureau found. Women’s pensions, on average, are less than half as much as men’s. Older women also have more chronic health conditions which result in high out-of-pocket expenses. Older women are also more likely to live alone and struggle to pay rent and other necessities. Seventy percent of older men lived with spouses, compared to 41 percent of older women. The highest rates of poverty among older people are experienced by Hispanic women (about 41 percent) and older African American women (about 31 percent) who live alone, Census data show.

The doll makeunder movement – The Toronto Star

“Her voice isn’t there because her makeup is in the way,” says Karen Blaak, a teacher and mother of 3-year-old twins, holding a Bratz doll with sexy makeup, hair, and clothes.  She wipes the makeup off the doll with nail polish remover and paints on a new, much younger face.   The “makeunder movement” is made up of a growing number of parents who object to sexy dolls being marketed to young girls, and who are taking matters into their own hands.  They are removing sexy makeup and changing the hair and clothes for these dolls so they look younger and more age appropriate.  Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, psychologist and former chair of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, sees this movement as “positive activism that demonstrates that people do want other options for their girls.” In their report, the task force summarized research linking sexualization of girls to eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out?

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